Is the drug industry pulling the wool over our eyes…?
9th July 2012
Just this week GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was fined £1.9bn for the following violations:
- Unapproved promotion of drugs – of label promotion for unapproved use.
- Withholding safety information and making unsupported claims for a diabetes drug.
- Paying kick-backs (bribes) to doctors to increase prescriptions of GSK drugs.
GSK are not alone in this type of behaviour; Pfizer was fined in 2009, along with other pharmaceutical companies.
Although this happened in America the patterns of drug use are similar in the UK so the chances are it is/has happened over here.
I have always had concerns regarding the monopoly that the pharmaceutical industry has over medical research and the lack of regulation in this area, this story has only intensified my scepticism. When you read the next big medical story in one of the tabloids (or broadsheets for that matter) ask yourself this question – who provided the funding for this research, what did the other research say and who actually carried it out? Apparently, there are occasions when medical literature is ‘ghost written’, meaning academic guest authors put their name to work created by medical writers working for the pharmaceutical company. We can only assume this is to increase the presumed ‘authority’ of the piece. But even if the author really is the author we still can’t be sure that there is no bias present – just look for any mention of ‘declarations of funding interests’ or something similar, normally at the end of the article. This is where the author(s) are supposed to declare any interests which are relevant to the article. It’s often hard to earn a living as a academic and many are funding by grants from various companies and organisations – now imagine a scientist is researching natural treatment options for IBS but he declares he has accepted a grant from a pharmaceutical company who has just launched a very lucrative drug aimed a relieving the symptoms of IBS. Do you think the scientist might be a little bit hesitant to reveal how successful (and cheap) the natural treatments were? You might even find that the research in question isn’t actually published it’s just pushed to the back of the shelf to gather dust – this is known as publication bias and it happens – every day.
Drug production needs better regulation. All research and safety data needs to be published regardless of the outcome. And there needs to be discussion as to the best way to fund all research, including research into vitamins, minerals, diet and lifestyles – all the things that can’t be patented and in which the pharmaceuticals have little interest in investigating. This way we’ll find out the absolute best treatment options for disease – health should not be about money.
This short 5 minute clip discusses some of these issues http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9735000/9735654.stm